Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folktales from the Gulf States (2002)

This book, like all of them by Zora Neale Hurston, is one of my absolute favorites. Hurston was an anthropologist from my alma mater (Barnard in NYC whoop whoop!) and she was trained under Franz Boas in the 1920s. This work is a solid representation of her oral history collection skills, as well as her works’ vernacular authenticity with regard to speech patterns and colloquialisms that have all but disappeared in the century since they were collected.

With themed chapters, tall tales about God, the Devil, White people, agriculture, and gender are captured and grouped to highlight the similar, but slightly differentiated stories that emerged in Florida, Alabama, and the Gulf region, where Hurston was originally from. I particularly recommend the audiobook version narrated by Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis, as they render the words audible in original sounding speech patterns, which make the tales easier to understand and much funnier to hear. This book reminded me of speaking with my grandparents and hearing their imaginations run wild while playing the dozens and making up bedtime stories to explain life’s mysteries. This oral history is a bit nostalgic, but also full of references of belief systems that still hold true in the Gulf region today.

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